Electricity Supply (Debt Recovery)

Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 13th December 1972.

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Photo of Mr John Smith Mr John Smith , Lanarkshire North 12:00 am, 13th December 1972

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will give a general direction to the South of Scotland Electricity Board to revise its policy on the recovery of debts for electricity supply.

Photo of Mr Alick Buchanan-Smith Mr Alick Buchanan-Smith , North Angus and Mearns

This is a matter of commercial management which is entirely for the board, but any consumer who feels he is being treated unfairly may approach the Electricity Consultative Council for the board's district.

Photo of Mr John Smith Mr John Smith , Lanarkshire North

Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the practice adopted by the South of Scotland Electricity Board when disconnecting the supply of electricity because of non-payment of accounts—namely, to insist on a deposit of £40, £50 or even £60 before the supply is reconnected? Since many of those concerned are poor families living in all-electric houses—families with young children of a tender age—does he not agree that it is extremely serious when there is no electricity supply to such households? Does he believe that boards should make these demands when the people concerned cannot pay them out of supplementary benefit or any other income, and does he not agree that this problem bears heavily on deserted wives? Therefore, will the Government ask for electricity board to stop demanding deposits and to tie its accounts to a shorter period than three months?

Photo of Mr Alick Buchanan-Smith Mr Alick Buchanan-Smith , North Angus and Mearns

I can appreciate that hardship is sometimes caused, but one cannot generalise and one has to relate these matters to individual cases. I have been assured by the board that it is well aware of the hardship and distress which can be caused. The board also assures us that through our good offices it has contact with social work services, and we believe that this is the right approach.

Photo of Mr David Steel Mr David Steel , Roxburghshire, Selkirkshire and Peeblesshire

Will the Minister reconsider this matter and not simply leave it to the commercial judgment of the board? Would it not assist if more burglar-proof prepayment meters were installed in houses?

Photo of Mr Alick Buchanan-Smith Mr Alick Buchanan-Smith , North Angus and Mearns

I accept that this relates to my responsibilities in crime prevention, and we believe that this would be helpful.